Hello, everyone! I’m so glad you stopped by to spend some time with us here at the unSeminary podcast. Today I’m talking with Darryl Taliaferro. Darryl is the executive pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Mt. Zion was started in 1866. The current pastor started there in 1992 with just 75 people, but the membership has now grown to 22,000 people a weekend.
Being the executive pastor is a big job and it can be tricky aligning the various ministries of the church. Darryl talks with us today about some of his tips for finding and keeping that balance.
Ensure that you are aligned with your senior pastor. // Darryl’s primary role as executive pastor is to support the vision of his senior pastor. And it’s his job to guide the staff in integrating that vision into every part of ministry. In order to do this, Darryl knows how important it is to make time to meet with his senior pastor. Without time face to face, it’s heard to understand the senior pastor’s heart and catch the vision.
Make time for regular meetings. // Darryl and his senior pastor make time to meet every other week to talk about the current state of things, hot button issues, and where the ministry is headed. Darryl then meets with his team on the opposite weeks so they can talk through the senior pastor’s vision and discuss how best to spread that vision throughout their areas of ministry. Regular meetings allow Darryl to empower his people so everyone is operating in a united way and able to shift and change direction as needed.
Find the balance between the vision and the reality. // Sometimes it can be difficult to balance big ideas for spreading the vision with the realities of finances, time and energy. As Darryl reminds us, keeping abreast of changes and reviewing the upcoming calendar is extremely important so the staff has a clear sense of what’s realistic right now, what’s on the horizon and what’s expected. Plans may not always come together in the desired timelines, but everyone on staff learns to be flexible as they work together to execute on the vision.
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00:29 // Rich introduces Darryl and welcomes him to the show.
00:58 // Darryl tells us about Mt. Zion Church.
01:22 // Darryl talks about his role within Mt. Zion Church.
02:03 // Darryl tells us the steps taken to ensure the Lead Pastor’s vision is realized.
03:03 // Darryl talks about the structure of their meetings.
04:30 // Darryl highlights some of the challenges the recession brought.
06:19 // Darryl talks about the benefits of having regular meetings.
07:15 // Darryl highlights the importance of understanding the Lead Pastor’s vision.
Helpful Tech Tools // worshipplanning.com
Ministries Following // Willow Creek
Influential Book // Leadership on the Line by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky
Inspiring Leader // Bill Hybels
What does he do for fun // Watches movies
Rich – Hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. My name’s Rich, the host around these parts. So glad that you’ve decided to spend some time with us today, we are so honored and privileged to have Darryl Taliaferro with us and Darryl is the Executive Pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. A church that started in 1866, the current pastor, a Senior Pastor there is Joseph Walker, he started in 1992 with just 75 people, the church has grown to 22 thousand people today. It’s a great ministry, a fantastic church and we’re just excited to have you on the show today Darryl.
Darryl – Thanks so much, glad to be here Rich.
Rich – Why don’t you give us a bit of the flavor of your church, what will people experience if they came this Sunday?
Darryl – Well Mt. Zion is a very high energy church, we believe in praising God and worshipping God. We believe in the spirit of liberty, we believe the Bible is true, in the spirit of the Lord there is liberty.
Rich – Interesting.
Darryl – You’ll experience worship, dancing, a great world, just a good family attitude.
Rich – Very cool. Now what’s your role there? You’re the Executive Pastor right, what does that encompass at your church?
Darryl – Well the Executive Pastor is like the second chair leader, the person who’s responsible for the administration, the person responsible for ministry oversight, ensuring that the vision of the Senior Pastor is realized and trickled down through various components of the ministry.
Rich – Very cool. Now that obviously in any church can be difficult. Obviously part of what we’re trying to do is to implement the vision that we believe God’s given the Senior Pastor, the Senior Leader at our church, but in a growing ministry like yourselves I’m sure that that has some unique challenges to it. Why don’t we explore that a little bit, how do you go about ensuring that you’re aligned with your Senior Pastor at your church?
Darryl – Well that’s a great question Rich. First of all what we do is, my pastor and I, we sit and have regular meetings. A lot of times you’d be surprised about the leaders who don’t even meet with their leader.
Rich – Right.
Darryl – They just give orders and that’s it, but we sit and we meet together so that I can understand his heart and he can understand my heart and in doing so he’s able to articulate his vision in such a way that I clearly understand it. If I don’t understand it there’s no way that I can help others understand the vision. So once I understand it then I take that vision and I try to make it relevant and palatable to those to which I lead. I can say, “Okay this is what the vision means for you, in ministry this is what the vision means for you,” and then helping them to plug in so that ultimately, as we have a quarter system; first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter, each quarter we can check in to make sure the vision is being realized.
Rich – Very cool.
Darryl – Yeah.
Rich – Now how often do you and your Senior Pastor meet, what does that look like, what does the rhythm look like there?
Darryl – We meet every week.
Rich – Okay.
Darryl – Actually every other week.
Rich – Okay great and is that for like an hour, two hours, what does that typically look like and how much of that gets spread between say current tactics, like what’s coming up this weekend or close and then long range, kind of where are we headed?
Darryl – It’s about 30 minutes to an hour and it’s a healthy balance between current issues, hot button issues and where we’re headed. There are times in which we’ll set aside a special meeting just for where we’re headed, “Hey this is what I’m thinking, this is what the Lord is saying, this is what I want you to join me in prayer about,” so that we can come together and see what it is that God’s saying about our ministry.”
Rich – Nice, then on the other side, as you trickle down, how often do you meet with your team? How do you ensure that they are onboard with that? What does that look like?
Darryl – We also meet on the other weeks.
Rich – Okay great.
Darryl – So I meet with my leader, my pastor on let’s say the first and third week and then I meet with my team on the second and fourth week, [Inaudible 00:04:03] general overseers, wherein I’m able to articulate the vision that I have been given, we talk about it, we mull over it and then we kick it around and then go from there.
Rich – Very cool. Can you think of a time where there maybe was a particularly or maybe a challenging time to rollout a piece of the vision and what you had to do to ensure that it was being understood and then ultimately implement in the team? Can you give us a sense of a time like that?
Darryl – Yeah absolutely. There’s an assumption that, because Mt. Zion is such a large church that, I mean we just have a tree in the backyard that you can just pull money from. Anyone knows who does ministry at any level that it takes money to do ministry and I remember specifically a time when the world, the country experienced somewhat of a recession wherein jobs were affected and people literally were wondering, “Okay, how am I going to rob Peter to pay Paul?” So that affected the church as well.
So we went through a period where a lot of our ministries wanted to do various things to implement the vision, to go on to make sure that the Senior Pastor’s visions were realized but I had to talk to them and say, “Okay we’re going to do the vision but we have to pull back just a little bit because we need to make sure that all of our resources, all of our pistons are hitting and currently because of where we are, according to this recession, the Lord is saying all of our pistons are not yet fired.” So the challenge was getting everybody to realize, yes we are going to do it but we have step back and do it methodically and strategically.
Rich – So the thing that obviously can be of difficulty within the Executive Pastor role is you’re sometimes caught between the vision and then actually making it happen, which is obviously a part of what you described there. In a scenario when you’re having to make some decisions, some calls between departments where what they are wanting to do is getting funded, other departments, there are things that maybe aren’t getting funded, how do you balance those out? How do you make those decisions first of all, like how do you prioritize but then also how do you kind of work that out and ensure that people are all along with you as you march towards what you believe God’s calling your church to.
Darryl – One of the things that I believe that has been incredibly beneficial in doing that is having these regular meetings with my team, wherein all of the team members area all around the table and we talk about various programs and events that are coming up, so then everybody has the benefit of hearing everything that is happening. So if there’s an event, let’s say that we have to pull back or one ministry can’t do it because another ministry is going to do it, we explain why in that meeting. I have my [Inaudible 00:06:49] there, he explains, “Okay this is where we are financially.” I’m there, I explain, “This is where we are from a vision perspective,” everybody understands. My role is to reaffirm, “Yes you’re going to do it but I just have to push you back to maybe the third quarter, fourth quarter in order to get it done.”
Rich – Very cool, very cool. Well anything else you want to share about implementing the Senior Pastor’s vision before I move on with the rest of the episode?
Darryl – You know Rich, I think as an Executive Pastor you just have to do it intentionally and let it be organic in terms of not force it, but if you understand what the vision is then it’s easy to follow it down and make it palatable for other people.